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In the earliest eras,
the ladies who enjoyed the sovereign's favour were classed simply as
"Empress" or "consort." But from the days of Hansho we find three
ranks of concubines.

INKYO

Inkyo was a younger brother of his predecessor, Hansho, as the latter
had been of Richu. No formal nomination of Inkyo as Prince Imperial
had taken place, and thus for the first time the sceptre was found
without any legalized heir or any son of the deceased sovereign to
take it. In these circumstances, the ministers held a council and
agreed to offer the throne to Inkyo, the elder of two surviving sons
of Nintoku. Inkyo was suffering from a disease supposed to be
incurable, and, distrusting his own competence, he persistently
refused to accept the responsibility. The incident responsible for
his ultimate consent was the intervention of a concubine, Onakatsu,
afterwards Empress. Under pretext of carrying water for the prince
she entered his chamber, and when he turned his back on her entreaty
that he would comply with the ministers' desire, she remained
standing in the bitter cold of a stormy day of January, until the
water, which she had spilled over her arm, became frozen and she fell
in a faint. Then the prince yielded. A year later envoys were sent to
seek medical assistance in Korea, which was evidently regarded as the
home of the healing science as well as of many other arts borrowed
from China. A physician arrived from Sinra, and Inkyo's malady was
cured.

In this reign took place a celebrated incident, already referred to,
when the lineage of the nobles was corrected by recourse to the
ordeal of boiling water. But a much larger space in the annals is
occupied with the story of an affair, important only as illustrating
the manners and customs of the time. From an early period it had been
usual that Japanese ladies on festive occasions should go through the
graceful performance of "woven paces and waving hands," which
constituted dancing, and, in the era now occupying our attention,
there prevailed in the highest circles a custom that the danseuse
should offer a maiden to the most honoured among the guests. One
winter's day, at the opening of a new palace, the Empress Onakatsu
danced to the music of the Emperor's lute. Onakatsu had a younger
sister, Oto, of extraordinary beauty, and the Emperor, fain to
possess the girl but fearful of offending the Empress, had planned
this dance so that Onakatsu, in compliance with the recognized usage,
might be constrained to place her sister at his disposal. It fell out
as Inkyo wished, but there then ensued a chapter of incidents in
which the dignity of the Crown fared ill. Again and again the
beautiful Oto refused to obey her sovereign's summons, and when at
length, by an unworthy ruse, she was induced to repair to the palace,
it was found impossible to make her an inmate of it in defiance of
the Empress' jealousy. She had to be housed elsewhere, and still the
Imperial lover was baffled, for he dared not brave the elder sister's
resentment by visiting the younger. Finally he took advantage of the
Empress' confinement to pay the long-deferred visit, but, on learning
of the event, the outraged wife set fire to the parturition house and
attempted to commit suicide. "Many years have passed," she is
recorded to have said to the Emperor, "since I first bound up my hair
and became thy companion in the inner palace. It is too cruel of
thee, O Emperor! Wherefore just on this night when I am in childbirth
and hanging between life and death, must thou go to Fujiwara?" Inkyo
had the grace to be "greatly shocked" and to "soothe the mind of the
Empress with explanations," but he did not mend his infidelity. At
Oto's request he built a residence for her at Chinu in the
neighbouring province of Kawachi, and thereafter the compilers of the
Chronicles, with fine irony, confine their record of three
consecutive years' events to a repetition of the single phrase, "the
Emperor made a progress to Chinu."

It is not, perhaps, extravagant to surmise that the publicity
attending this sovereign's amours and the atmosphere of loose
morality thus created were in part responsible for a crime committed
by his elder son, the Crown Prince Karu. Marriage between children of
the same father had always been permitted in Japan provided the
mother was different, but marriage between children of the same
mother was incest. Prince Karu was guilty of this offence with his
sister, Oiratsume, and so severely did the nation judge him that he
was driven into exile and finally obliged to commit suicide. With
such records is the reign of Inkyo associated. It is perplexing that
the posthumous name chosen for him by historians should signify
"sincerely courteous." Incidentally, four facts present
themselves--that men wore wristbands and garters to which grelots
were attached; that a high value was set on pearls; that metal was
used for the construction of great men's gates, and that the first
earthquake is said to have been experienced in A.D. 416.

ANKO

The records of this sovereign's reign make a discreditable page of
Japanese history. Anko, having ascended the throne after an armed
contest with his elder brother, which ended in the latter's suicide,
desired to arrange a marriage between his younger brother, Ohatsuse,
and a sister of his uncle, Okusaka. He despatched Ne no Omi, a
trusted envoy, to confer with the latter, who gladly consented, and,
in token of approval, handed to Ne no Omi a richly jewelled coronet
for conveyance to the Emperor. But Ne no Omi, covetous of the gems,
secreted the coronet, and told the Emperor that Okusaka had rejected
the proposal with scorn. Anko took no steps to investigate the truth
of this statement. It has been already seen that such investigations
were not customary in those days. Soldiers were at once sent to
slaughter Okusaka; his wife, Nakashi, was taken to be the Emperor's
consort, and his sister, Hatahi, was married to Prince Ohatsuse.

Now, at the time of his death, Okusaka had a son, Mayuwa, seven years
old. One day, the Emperor, having drunk heavily, confessed to the
Empress, Nakashi, that he entertained some apprehension lest this boy
might one day seek to avenge his father's execution. The child
overheard this remark, and creeping to the side of his step-father,
who lay asleep with his head in Nakashi's lap, killed him with his
own sword. Such is the tale narrated in the Chronicles and the
Records. But its incredible features are salient. A deed of the kind
would never have been conceived or committed by a child, and the
Empress must have been a conniving party.

To what quarter, then, is the instigation to be traced? An answer
seems to be furnished by the conduct of Prince Ohatsuse. Between this
prince and the throne five lives intervened; those of the Emperor
Anko, of the latter's two brothers, Yatsuri no Shiro and Sakai no
Kuro, both older than Ohatsuse, and of two sons of the late Emperor
Richu, Ichinobe no Oshiwa and Mima. Every one of these was removed
from the scene in the space of a few days. Immediately after Anko's
assassination, Ohatsuse, simulating suspicion of his two elder
brothers, killed the o-omi, who refused to give them up. Ohatsuse
then turned his attention to his grand-uncles, the two sons of Richu.
He sent a military force to destroy one of them without any pretence
of cause; the other he invited to a hunting expedition and
treacherously shot. If Ohatsuse did not contrive the murder of Anko,
as he contrived the deaths of all others standing between himself and
the throne, a great injustice has been done to his memory.

LOYALTY

These shocking incidents are not without a relieving feature. They
furnished opportunities for the display of fine devotion. When Prince
Okusaka died for a crime of which he was wholly innocent, two of his
retainers, Naniwa no Hikaga, father and son, committed suicide in
vindication of his memory. When Prince Sakai no Kuro and Mayuwa took
refuge in the house of the o-omi Tsubura, the latter deliberately
chose death rather than surrender the fugitives. When Prince Kuro
perished, Nie-no-Sukune took the corpse in his arms and was burned
with it. When Prince Ichinobe no Oshiwa fell under the treacherous
arrow of Prince Ohatsuse, one of the former's servants embraced the
dead body and fell into such a paroxysm of grief that Ohatsuse
ordered him to be despatched. And during this reign of Yuryaku, when
Lord Otomo was killed in a fatal engagement with the Sinra troops, his
henchman, Tsumaro, crying, "My master has fallen; what avails that I
alone should remain unhurt?" threw himself into the ranks of the
enemy and perished. Loyalty to the death characterized the Japanese
in every age.

YURYAKU

This sovereign was the Ohatsuse of whose unscrupulous ambition so
much has just been heard. Some historians have described him as an
austere man, but few readers of his annals will be disposed to
endorse such a lenient verdict. He ordered that a girl, whose only
fault was misplaced affection, should have her four limbs stretched
on a tree and be roasted to death; he slew one of his stewards at a
hunt, because the man did not understand how to cut up the meat of an
animal; he removed a high official--Tasa, omi of Kibi--to a distant
post in order to possess himself of the man's wife (Waka), and he
arbitrarily and capriciously killed so many men and women that the
people called him the "Emperor of great wickedness." One act of
justice stands to his credit. The slanderer, Ne no Omi, who for the
sake of a jewelled coronet had caused the death of Prince Okusaka, as
related above, had the temerity to wear the coronet, sixteen years
subsequently, when he presided at a banquet given in honour of envoys
from China; and the beauty of the bauble having thus been noised
abroad, Ne no Omi was required to show it at the palace. It was
immediately recognized by the Empress, sister of the ill-starred
prince, and Ne no Omi, having confessed his crime, was put to death,
all the members of his uji being reduced to the rank of serfs. One
moiety of them was formed into a hereditary corporation which was
organized under the name of Okusakabe, in memory of Prince Okusaka.

ARTS AND CRAFTS

The reign of Yuryaku is partially saved from the reproach of selfish
despotism by the encouragement given to the arts and crafts.



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